Update on DeLay Complaint

On Friday, July 24 the Ethics Committee decided to extend for 45 days its deadline to assess whether a complaint against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) based on allegations concerning improper fundraising and abuse of power merits further investigation. In response, Common Cause President Chellie Pingree said that the decision of the Ethics Committee is more reason it should appoint an outside counsel..

“It seems as if Ethics Committee couldn’t agree on what the best course of action is regarding this complaint,” Pingree said. “That’s makes it all the more necessary that an impartial observer be brought in to decide what’s next.”

Common Cause and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) called for the appointment of an outside counsel on July 15 to investigate allegations against Rep. DeLay made by Rep. Chris Bell (D-TX). Rep. Bell, a one-term lawmaker, lost a primary election in March after Rep. DeLay worked with the GOP-led Texas Legislature to change district boundaries in that state. Rep. Bell’s allegations against Rep. DeLay include improper fundraising and abuse of power.

Because Rep. DeLay is a member of House leadership and one of the most powerful members of Congress, Common Cause believes his stature makes it especially difficult for his peers to sit in judgment of him. What’s more, Rep. DeLay’s political action committee has given money to four of the five Republicans on the Ethics Committee.

There is also precedent for the Ethics Committee to appoint an outside counsel in cases involving congressional leaders. Outside counsels were appointed to investigate ethics complaints filed against former House Speakers Jim Wright (D-TX) and Newt Gingrich (R-GA).

Common Cause and CREW are not alone in calling for Rep. DeLay’s resignation. Newspapers including the Dallas Morning News and Miami Herald have done the same.

The Ethics Committee now has until Sept. 20 to recommend that the allegations filed against Rep. DeLay be considered by an investigative subcommittee, or dismissed.